The mayor of Indian Trail and his wife won’t be allowed to care for a foster child, and the reason has nothing to do with whether they can do the job.
Indian Trail mayor Michael Alvarez and his wife had already completed the 30 hours of mandatory training last summer that’s required to get a foster care license. They took these classes after going through an initial screening process.
Then in November, Alvarez decided to have a press conference after a Union County Division of Social Services supervisor and her partner were arrested on child abuse charges after an 11-year-old child under their care was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck.
He said that all DSS cases since the supervisor came on board needed to be reviewed.
Meanwhile, Alvarez was awaiting approval to be a foster parent. On December 20, DSS sent Alvarez and his wife a letter saying that his application was being denied because of what he said at that press conference.
"I didn't say anything negative to DSS," Alvarez says. "About the worst thing I said is 'I know I wasn't born yesterday. One person doesn't break a system. And every case that she touched and every person she supervised touched needs to be re-examined.'"
The letter says that because of his comments, "it would be difficult for [DSS] to work in partnership to achieve the permanent plan for children in foster care."
Alvarez says he couldn't believe it.
"It's just, to me, an ignorant letter that's politically motivated and 'You hurt my feelings.' OK. So if a great parent comes in there and has a difference of a religious view or a political view from a DSS worker, does that mean now you're going to lobby to take away that child from that parent?" Alvarez says. "These are questions that rise from this letter."
The executive director of the Union County Human Services Department, Richard Matens, says there's no politics involved in the agency.
"One of the skillsets that's needed in our process is the ability to positively partner with our agency for the welfare of the children," Matens says. "There's nothing that prohibits individuals from providing constructive criticism about the process, we are open to that all the time."
He says it comes down whether or not potential foster parents will be a good fit not only for the child, but also with DSS. The decision can't be appealed but the Alvarezes can reapply.